If you are keen to train then there are two routes available to you, school based or university based.
Should you choose the school based route (SCITT – School based Initial Teacher Training) you have the advantage of learning on the job, interacting with experienced teachers and can begin to make your mark instantly. These School Direct programmes can be applied to via the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Many are salaried, a real incentive and clear advantage over the University based option, and lead to full time work at the end of the year long course, a further incentive as there is less pressure to find work at critical points in the year. The award of a PGCE is the culmination of the year.
Conversely you can opt for the ‘Teach First’ option. This is a two year (again culminating in a PGCE) course aiming to put top quality graduates (those with a 2:1 or above) into challenging schools. The idea is that the skills and knowledge gained from this programme can then be taken forward into any career. Many chose to move onto different careers with highly successful employers. You receive an unqualified teacher’s pay in your first year, rising to that of an NQT in the second. Personally, whilst I think the ethos of the Leadership Development Programme (Teach First) is an excellent one; raising standards in schools and giving students access to the very best and brightest graduates, one should enter the profession with a mind-set of making a career of it and with a degree of selflessness, not simply using it as a springboard to something else.
A slightly different approach is Assessment Only (AO) qualification that can lead directly to QTS. This is aimed at experienced teachers with a degree. The idea is to demonstrate competency in required teaching standards and usually involves evidence collection and some observations from an awarding body. If you are teaching without a qualification, for example in the independent sector, then this option certainly gives you further options if you want to move on from your current employer. A further option for those in the independent sector is an independent PGCE such as that run by the University of Buckingham.
The university based route is what I would term as a more ‘traditional’ method of training to teach. Applications are again made through UCAS and courses tend to last one year (or two for part time courses) and end with the award of a PGCE. Courses blend theory of teaching in an academic setting with on the job training in placement schools, usually more than one. I believe that this route is the best option, particularly if you are coming into teaching as a first career. You have the advantage of University based support and academic training blended with the experience gained in a placement. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, the University based option gives you opportunity to make mistakes, learn from them and move into a full time position with a clean slate following the completion of your training year.
Priority subjects – Other options
If you are fortunate enough to hold a degree in a priority subject such as Maths or Physics, you may consider the Researcher in Schools programme or Future Teaching Scholars. These offer financial incentives (£15,000 in the case of Future Teaching Scholars) whilst studying including initial teacher training if you are studying or thinking of studying these priority subjects. At the time of writing priority subjects are; Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geography, Languages and Computing, if you have a desire to train to teach these subjects then higher value bursaries are available to you whatever route you elect to follow.
Is there a need to train?
Quite simply YES. Whatever sector you aim to work in the knowledge, understanding and versatility that you gain from following a clear training course is invaluable. It gives you flexibility, credibility and integrity. Furthermore, gaining a teaching qualification increases the professionalism of the vocation, making all reach highly proficient standards allowing students to access the best education. I have had discussions on training quite often over the last decade, particularly as I entered the independent sector and my attitude has always been the same, you would not claim to be a GP with a science degree, so why would you claim to be a teacher without formal training? I have met many excellent teachers without qualifications and been lucky enough to observe them, similarly I have observed some awful teaching from those with formal qualifications, nevertheless, systems of quality control and professional standards are in place to assist them in raising their game. Qualifications are not the be all and end all, but without the versatility and flexibility that training offers, all those individuals can be are gifted amateurs.
For more information on training check out the DfE’s ‘Get into Teaching’ website